Celebrity chef Mario Batali settles sexual assault lawsuits in Boston

Celebrity chef Mario Batali looks toward his attorney Anthony Fuller at the Boston Municipal Court during the first day of his trial on a criminal charge that he forcibly groped and kissed a woman at a restaurant in 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. May 9, 2022. Steven Senne/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

BOSTON, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Celebrity chef Mario Batali has agreed to settle lawsuits by two women alleging he sexually assaulted them in separate encounters in Boston, one of whose accusations were the focus of a #MeToo-era criminal prosecution that ended in his acquittal.

Lawyers for Natali Tene, whose claims were at the heart of Batali's trial in May, and Alexandra Brown confirmed late Tuesday they had resolved their separate lawsuits in state court in Boston against Batali.

"The matters have been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties," attorney attorneys Eric Baum and Matthew Fogelman said in a joint statement. "We cannot comment further due to confidentiality obligations."

The docket in Tene's case showed that a hearing set for Tuesday was recently called off because the case had been settled.

Batali's lawyer, Anthony Fuller, did not respond to requests for comment.

Tene's claims formed the basis of the only criminal case to result from various #MeToo-era allegations of sexual harassment and assault by women against Batali, once a fixture of Food Network and a star of the ABC cooking and talk show "The Chew." read more

Tene, 32, had said Batali in 2017 groped her breasts, buttocks and crotch area and forcibly kissed her while drunkenly posing for selfies with her at a bar near Boston's Eataly, the Italian market and restaurant that at the time he partly owned. She filed a civil lawsuit against him in 2018.

Batali was charged in 2019 with indecent assault and battery.

His lawyers argued that Tene fabricated the story to win a monetary settlement. After a non-jury trial, a judge acquitted Batali, saying Tene had "significant credibility issues" and that her photos did not back her claims.

Tene's lawyers also represented Brown, who separately sued Batali in 2019 and accused him of similarly sexually assaulting her while posing for selfies at a different Boston restaurant in 2016.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.